Here is a quick round up of stories and reports from the Mauritanian media on the brief AQIM attack on a Mauritanian Army base near Bassiknou on Tuesday. The attack appears to have failed, and the Army claims to have killed ten and twenty (depending on the report) AQIM men being killed by the Mauritanian Army, nine taken prisoner by the Mauritanian Army. It is the first clash between Mauritanian forces and AQIM since the fighting at Wagadou Forest last week. As always readers are encouraged to post their information and thoughts in the comments section.
UPDATE: See Alex Thurston’s analysis of recent clashes between AQIM and the Mauritanian/Malian armed forces.
- Early reports indicate a military barracks in the town of Bassiknou, near Nema, came under attack by AQIM elements leading to a firefight last “for more than half an hour”. One report says heavy weapons were used, gunfire could be heard and columns of smoke could be seen. A military reconnaissance plane flew overhead from the Nema air base “to monitor the movements of the insurgents”. It cites anonymous sources as saying “the military directed military reinforcements and aircraft from Nema to the scene to help the Army in its fight with al-Qaeda”. (Here.) Another article reports “artillery shelling and heavy gunfire”, concentrated around a military base in the area. It also quotes a local official reporting villagers phoning him and informing him about explosions, military aircraft and gunfire. It notes that locals fear the violence may be related to the recent fighting between the Army and AQIM in the Wagadou Forest. (Here.)
- A later report says AQIM men crossed the Mauritanian border from Mali and attacked the military base (“a military base for operations management”). The base is about three kilometers from the town itself according to Sahara Media. It quotes a military source as saying that the confrontation ended when military aircraft appeared overhead and AQIM’s troops fled the scene. It quotes the source as saying the men at the base were caught off guard by the attack because the part of the border with Mali close to the scene is “fully guarded and difficult to penetrate”. (Here.) Another report outlines the attack according to military sources: twenty AQIM trucks brought gunmen for the attack. Two of these trucks were destroyed by the Army, according to the source. Eighteen trucks fled toward the Malian border while infantry troops and reconnaissance aircraft from the Mauritanian Air Force tracked them. There are no reports of casualties or fatalities and the source says the Army’s intelligence capabilities helped to foil the attack. (Here.)
- Later reports say the Army repelled the attack, in the process killing between ten and taking prisoner nine AQIM members. Military sources are quoted as describing their losses as “negligible”. According to one of these reports, the troops attacked were returning from the tail end of operations in the Wagadou Forest in northwestern Mali, where the Mauritanian and Malian armies fought with AQIM last week. The Army destroyed one of AQIM’s trucks attempting to flee into Malian territory near Sidi Ely (fourteen kilometers from Bassiknou, according to al-Akhbar). One report says, according to media sources in Nouakchott, the attack was “carefully planned, and senior leaders in the organization [AQIM] taking party in the attack, with twenty five trucks participating in the attack (at least one report attributes the twenty five number to “AQIM sources”). Other reports quote military sources as claiming the Army killed ten, fifteen or twenty AQIM fighters. One story says the Army took three casualties in the fighting, two of them with “mild wounds” and one other with more serious injuries. Most of the reports say the fighting lasted about thirty minutes. (Here, here, here, here, here and here)